Discover more from What is a Good Life?
What is a Good Life? #1
Welcome to the What is a Good Life? newsletter
Good day to you all,
First off, thank you for your interest in this newsletter.
Over the last 3 months I’ve interviewed over 100 people (110 to date) for 45 minutes around this question. I was intrigued to see how individuals from CEOs to those in between jobs, from bankers to artists, from those in their 20s to late 60s, would respond to the question.
The purpose of this newsletter is to spark and support your personal inquiry into what is a good life for you – not to give you a ready-made answer or recommendation. We are all our own unique bundle of things, in need of our own particular answer.
Each week, I’ll provide excerpts from the interviews (section 2), overall insights from 100+ interviews (section 3), my own learnings (section 4) and questions for you to contemplate (section 5). Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope that it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. Something to keep in mind when exploring the question
No matter someone’s age or level of success, despite being told during our pre-interview chat, that the very first question would be, “What is a good life for you?”, the question was invariably greeted with a big exhale or nervous laughter.
Despite most of us trying to figure out what works better for us in life, or how can we make it more enjoyable or meaningful, when it comes to explicitly discussing or exploring the topic, the question can feel overwhelming or too large to navigate.
With some of the bigger questions in life, we shy away and step back from them when we don’t have an immediate or succinct answer. However, there’s lot to be gained and understood from sitting in the confusion or uncertainty.
2. This weeks’ interview – just be yourself
The first interview I’m sharing is from Neo*, who despite having success with his career, a lack of alignment with his own values began to take its toll. This ultimately led to a burnout, which then prompted a lot of self-inquiry to determine what was important to him. Neo’s interest in taking part in the interview was to pay it forward - to help a stranger out with their project.
*not his real name
What is a good life?
It's being comfortable with yourself, which allows you to really focus on what's important - on your priorities, that then eliminates all the noise that surrounds you, which doesn't matter. And then you end up living the good life, because you're just focused on what's important. Not everyone gets to discover that, but once you do, you’re undefeated man.
This idea of becoming comfortable with yourself, can you walk me through the evolution of that for you?
I come from a background, it's a culture that's been conquered by a lot of different countries. Ever since you're born, you’re trained to be somebody that you're not. And you need to be someone in order to be accepted, you need to be something in order to make it. And since it's ingrained in you, you want to continue being this thing that you think you're supposed to be. Luckily for me, I had a turning point, I discovered, like, “No”, I don't need to be anything else, but myself. In my culture, academics were always number one, but I followed my creativity, and 20 years later I still get to do what I love.
How did your priorities shift after the burnout?
My whole mission in life was to make sure that I'm providing for my family. Now, the way I'm providing for them is important - before it didn't matter. Afterwards, I realised If I'm working for somebody I don't believe in, if I'm getting burnt out, or if I'm working for a client that doesn't align with my values - why am I selling my soul for this company or this person? That's really important to me now, that I only do things that I believe in, or that will support my values. I can no longer sacrifice being forced to do something I don't want to do. There's still definitely things you have to sacrifice on; time, effort and all of that – which is fine. But overall, the good outweighs the bad, and it makes me sleep a lot better at night.
Thoughts on finding your own way in life…
There's a misconception to that, where sometimes people think that you have to be bold, aggressive and radical. No, just be yourself. Stop caring about what anyone else thinks and stop worrying about your ego. You start realising that, once you stop caring about what other people think - no one gives a shit what you do - everyone cares about themselves. Figure yourself out and stop worrying about noise out there, and everything will work out. That's the biggest thing, no one cares about your freaking post. No one cares. Just live you and I think you'll be okay.
3. This week’s insight from 100+ interviews
When asked to recount a recent, or seminal, moment of strong fulfilment in life, participants far more frequently recounted more regular moments like; riding their bikes on a sunny day, being in nature, watching football with friends, playing with their kids, than they mentioned major life achievements or adventures.
Perhaps the good life is happening for us more often than we think, we just have to pay attention.
4. What I’m learning about a good life from this process
While we often like to deal in absolutes in describing ourselves, or in saying what is the best way to live life, part of a good life for me, is the movement between opposing states. Being in and out of my comfort zone, making decisions with my heart and others with my head, spending time alone and time with others, playing and being serious, being disciplined and being messy. It’s becoming clearer to me, that a good life is a dance, balancing opposing states, that allows me to experience a full life.
5. This week’s questions for personal reflection
1. What are your biggest priorities in life?
2. How is that reflected in your actions and use of time?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates - layout, content, etc. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.